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Cóctel de los Muertos (Mezcal Cocktail)

If you love classic cocktails and also love mezcal, this riff is for you. And if you’re new to mezcal or unsure about it, this is great way to test drive it in something other than a Margarita or Paloma!

vintage coupe glass filled with a hazy liquid next to leather wrapped cocktail shaker.

When I first created this recipe back in 2018, I was just getting into mezcal and having a lot of fun experimenting with it in different recipes. One of my all-time favorite classic cocktails is the Corpse Reviver #2, and with Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos right around the corner, it sounded like the perfect classic to try out my new mezcals with.

What is mezcal?

Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage originating from Mexico, specifically the regions of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Durango, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, Michoacán, and Puebla.

It is made from the agave plant, just like tequila, but while all tequilas are technically a type of mezcal, not all mezcals are tequila.

Mezcal is typically produced through a traditional method that involves roasting the hearts of the agave plant (known as “piñas”) in underground pits lined with lava rocks. This gives mezcal its characteristic smoky flavor, which can vary in intensity depending on factors like the type of agave used, the production methods, and aging process.

What does it taste like?

In terms of taste, mezcal offers a complex flavor profile that often includes smoky, earthy, and vegetal notes, along with hints of fruit, floral, and herbal undertones.

bottle of Don Ramon mezcal next to candles and flowers.

The smokiness, derived from the roasting process, is one of the most distinctive characteristics of mezcal and can range from subtle to bold depending on the producer and style. Some mezcals also have sweet or spicy elements, depending on factors like the specific agave variety used and any additional flavorings or aging techniques used.

Mezcal brands to try

Del Maguey is a super popular and well-respected producer of artisanal mezcal, known for its commitment to traditional production methods and showcasing the unique characteristics of different agave varieties. Their range includes single village mezcals, each offering a distinct flavor profile representative of its terroir.

Montelobos mezcal is a brand of artisanal mezcal produced in Oaxaca, Mexico. Montelobos mezcal is known for its commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship, using organic and sustainably sourced agaves and supporting local communities.

In terms of flavor profile, Montelobos mezcal typically exhibits a balance of smoky, earthy, and herbal notes, with nuances of citrus, fruit, and floral undertones. The smokiness, derived from the traditional roasting process, is a prominent characteristic of Montelobos mezcal but is often complemented by layers of complexity and depth.

Don Ramón is a brand of mezcal produced in Oaxaca, Mexico, known for its traditional production methods and artisanal approach. Like many mezcals, Don Ramón mezcal often exhibits a pronounced smoky character derived from the traditional roasting of agave hearts (piñas) in underground pits.

Liquor.com has a nice list of some top mezcals with the best options by factors like price, smokiness, and ‘best for beginners’.

A riff on the classic gin cocktail

In this Corpse Reviver variation, I swapped mezcal for gin and I used lime juice in place of lemon, making a smokey, Corpse Reviver-meets-Margarita mashup.

A classic Corpse Reviver is made with equal parts gin, Lillet Blanc, Cointreau, and lemon juice. The special finishing touch for this classic is an absinthe rinse, which adds a lot of flavor with just a few drops of the spirit. If you like absinthe, try my Fairy Godmother absinthe cocktail!

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz mezcal
  • 1 oz Lillet blanc
  • 1 oz Cointreau / triple sec
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • Absinthe rinse

Substitutions

Can you substitute tequila? Absolutely. Tequila will give the drink a similar flavor, although it won’t have the smokiness that mezcal brings.

Can you use lemon juice? Yes. I went with lime for the extra tart flavor and the nod to the Margarita, but this drink is superb with lemon juice (like in the classic gin version).

Is there an alternative for Cointreau? I prefer Cointreau for this recipe, but you can also use any triple sec or curacao liqueur you have. While it does have a more artificial flavor, you can even use blue curacao for a colorful twist.

Can I use something instead of Lillet Blanc? This one is a little trickier. Lillet Blanc has no direct substitute, as it is a very specific type of aromatized and fortified wine. However, you could use Cocchi Americano or even a sweet white vermouth such as Dolin Blanc. It won’t be exactly the same, but it will still be delicious and well balanced. Keep in mind that Cocchi Americano has a bit more of a bittersweet flavor than Lillet.

More mezcal cocktails to enjoy:

vintage coupe glass filled with a hazy liquid next to leather wrapped cocktail shaker.

Coctel de los Muertos (Mezcal Cocktail)

Amy Traynor
This simple riff on the classic Corpse Reviver No.2 cocktail replaces gin with mezcal and lemon juice with lime. The result is a delicious blend of layered herbal and citrus flavors.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 3 minutes
Total Time 3 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 1 cocktail

Ingredients
  

  • 1 oz mezcal
  • 1 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • oz absinthe for rinse

Instructions
 

  • Pour the absinthe into a cocktail glass, swirl it around, then dump the excess liquid.
  • Combine the remaining ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill it 3/4 with ice.
  • Shake until chilled, about 10 seconds, then strain into the absinthe-rinsed glass.
  • Garnish with an orange twist.
Keyword absinthe, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, mezcal
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